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Whitmer, GOP leaders cut deal on budget talks, work rules

GOP lawmakers will include Whitmer’s budget director in talks about the next state spending plan and how to spend billions of federal coronavirus relief aid.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican legislative leaders have announced the framework of an agreement to open budget negotiations, give lawmakers input into future pandemic restrictions and drop potential permanent COVID-19 workplace regulations. 

The deal may finally ease longstanding tensions in the Capitol that existed even before the Democratic governor issued orders to control the coronavirus.

GOP lawmakers will include Whitmer’s budget director in talks about the next state spending plan and how to spend billions of federal coronavirus relief aid.

The governor will withdraw permanent pandemic workplace-safety rules that could have taken effect in the fall after emergency rules expire.

The workplace-safety rules had drawn criticism from business groups like the Grand Rapids Chamber for not addressing "vaccinated workers." 

Some employers had been unclear on what the rules meant as there was a conflict between the Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration's rules and the state health department's most recent order (which was updated to match federal mask guidance). 

Earlier this week, MIOSHA said it was reviewing its emergency rules and draft permanent rules to reflect the new Center for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance. Whitmer's office says the revised emergency rules will take effect May 24, when remote workers are able to return to the office. 

MIOSHA's current workplace-safety emergency rules 

Business owners are still within their rights to enforce mask policies for employees and customers, says attorney Nhan Ho. 

But, she advises employers seek guidance as they draft new policies. 

"Make sure that if they implement any rule, communicate that with your employees, communicate that with your customer, make sure that they're clear what the rule is, and you know, just tread carefully when it comes to this new development," said Ho, of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone in Detroit.

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